Saturday, September 02, 2023

Health in My Forties! (or Why I Lost a Bunch of Weight This Year)

I've lost 70 pounds in the past year. 

June 2022, Idaho (around 272 pounds)

I have about 15 pounds left until I'm at my "goal" weight of 180 pounds. I say "goal" because it's where my body, in the past, felt the healthiest and tended to settle at for many years (post 4 children). It's about 25 pounds higher than BMI recommendations, but as my doctor says, "BMI only applies to a very small portion of the population. Don't even look at that chart." 

A lot of people want to know how I did it and it's difficult to answer that question in a few sentences. For most people, I just say, "exercise and eating well" because that's the truth. Without eating well (good food, small portions) and exercise (walking and yoga; I try to close all the 'rings' on my apple watch every day), it wouldn't work. 

But the long answer is... well... long. And it's never as simple as people think it could be (or should be!). I thought about writing my entire life history to show the journey I've been on and how I was able to get to my mid-40's where I feel the healthiest and happiest I've ever been... But it would be a novel, dear reader. And nobody (I mean, nobody!) is lining up to read that novel. 

July 2021, Idaho (around 275 pounds)

June 2023, Hawai'i (around 210 pounds)

But this will probably still be long. Not novel long... maybe novella long? 

I decided to divide up my thoughts and feelings about what I've learned up to this point in my life about my overall health into five different sections: Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, Extra Help, and Obesity vs Depression. Please note that everything I've learned intersects! There isn't any facet of my life that doesn't affect the other facets and the truth is, without healing certain parts of me, the physical part would still be greatly suffering. It's all connected. 

Also: this is just me. I am not a doctor or therapist and I don't claim to be, so don't take anything here as anything more than me telling my story. I am not asking any of you to repeat or follow anything I've done. 


(or Why I Lost a Bunch of Weight This Year)


I have depression. I've been on and off meds for 15+ years and am currently on a low dose of Wellbutrin. I've had 5 therapists and 3 psychiatrists. What I have learned: 

  • Therapy is invaluable. If you have never tried therapy, I highly recommend it. HIGHLY. I also highly recommend this workbook
  • Medication can be life-saving. It's hard to always find the right one that works well, but the effort is worth it. My daily med gives me just enough boost in the right direction so that making decisions  (and the follow through) isn't overwhelming. 
2008, Utah

  • Anxiety and depression go together. Stress and depression go together. So does oldest-daughter-syndrome, sexism, co-dependence, martyrdom, and introversion (you get the idea!). Knowing is always half the battle and learning how my brain and personality operate has made it easier to anticipate struggles before they happen. 
  • Self-care isn't always a break or a bubble bath (although those things are nice!). Real self-care is also self-discipline. Knowing my mind operates better after a good morning walk gives me the motivation to go out the door. Knowing I'll feel horrible after eating more than 2 cookies helps prevent me from bingeing. Knowing that filling my time/life up with meaningless conversation, relationships, and negativity helps prevent me from doom-scrolling on social media, loosen my boundaries in a relationship, and entertain negative people.
2023, on a solo writing retreat in Kansas
  • Taking the time to work on my mental health has saved me from self-harm, hurting my children, leaving my husband, and suicide. I'm not kidding. I'm not. If you've never wanted to harm yourself, hit your kids, divorce your spouse, or kill yourself, then good for you! Truly! That's a good thing! Now you get to be grateful and have compassion for those of us who have. :) 


Along with the mental health, I've learned some amazing things about my emotional health:
  • Digging deep and learning what brings me peace and joy is so important. Finding ways to incorporate those things into my busy life has been a lot harder, but integral to my overall health. Examples? Reading, poetry, travel, nature, teacups, pretty shirts, earrings, pedicures, antique furniture, music, movies, and long conversations with friends. Etcetera. And so forth. 
2016, Idaho
  • I've learned to feel my feelings as they come without shame. There is nothing wrong with feelings! They just exist. Anger is a secondary emotion, and so when I feel angry, I feel the anger, but then try to figure out where it's coming from. Identifying my emotions has helped me work through them, rather than beat myself up for having them. Berating myself for having emotions and feelings in response to things/people is like berating myself for breathing. Let me say that, again: Berating myself for having emotions and feelings in response to things/people is like berating myself for breathing.They just exist. It's what I do with them that matters, not having them in the first place. 
  • I've learned to be kind to myself. I no longer publicly (or even to friends) talk badly about my body. I stopped doing that even while I was obese because I realized I hated hearing other people trash-talk themselves, so why would I trash-talk myself?  I try really hard not to talk badly about my personality, my mistakes, my past, or my quirks. I have learned to love myself more than I ever have in my life. I've learned to love my body, no matter my size or shape. I've learned how to meditate and pray with gratitude for my body and my life. I have given myself permission to forgive myself for my past mistakes, for my current mistakes, and for my future mistakes. Loving myself 70 pounds heavier than I am now changed everything, really. Convincing myself that I am beautiful, loved, important, and that I matter -- without caveats -- is when I started to truly heal and change for the better. This is because you can't hate something into a better version of itself. Love is the only thing that can inspire change. Love is the only thing that supports positive steps. The conclusion, then, is to love myself into the version of me I know I need to be. 
2019, Idaho
  • I am doing the things that make me happy, yes, but I'm also challenging myself. I'm working as an accompanist, I'm always trying to improve as a piano teacher, and I'm publishing my poetry (while also working so very, very hard to be "discovered" and published traditionally). These things have pushed me out of my comfort zone in positive ways (even while sometimes quite humbling!). I have been reminded that the things we love, the passions we feel compelled (or prompted) to do, and the courage to take chances only deposits more joy into our lives. 


Every relationship with the divine or an organized religion is private and personal. I don't judge anyone's journey, and I would expect the same respect in return. With that said, I also don't expect everyone to understand my personal journey with God --I only share what's important to me and what I've learned over the last 44 years: 
  • I have been the most valiant of Mormon women and I have also been incredibly doubtful. I have wrestled with difficult questions for a long time. I have been angry, I have been repentant, I have been bitterly sorrowful. Sometimes all of those things within a day! I have had experiences I can't explain, experiences so sacred they have fueled a faith in me that will probably last for the rest of my life. I have felt real joy. All of these experiences, both the good and the bad have brought me to the point where I am comfortable not knowing everything. I simply do not know things. I don't know. And I no longer pretend to know.
  • Because I don't know, I realized I have a choice. I can choose how I worship, how I approach religion, and how I rely on God without fear, anymore. 
  • I have chosen to love God and love my neighbors. Those are the most important parts of my faith. I am working on them both equally and, not surprisingly, fail at them quite often. 
  • I have also chosen to keep the promises (covenants) I make to God. I never promised to keep them well or perfectly. But I promised I would try. So, I am trying. 
  • My personal experiences have brought me a lot of hope. That hope is often turned into faith. And yet I'm okay being right there between hope and faith, relying on my quiet, subtle and yet consistent relationship with God. I've realized I don't need constant gasping experiences. 
  • Praying and meditating by myself centers me. 
2023, Hawai'i
  • Discovering my relationship with my Heavenly Mother has been crucial. Being a woman in a church that focuses on a Patriarchy has always been difficult for me, no matter how "active" I've been. The obvious and traditional inequality is bitterly painful, not to mention humiliating and sometimes infuriatingly demeaning. Choosing to learn about, talk about, and pray to my Heavenly Mother has given me so much peace. To know my gender is not a mistake, I have a purpose, and there is a Goddess that understands my body and life perfectly is absolutely imperative to my ability to have faith in a Deity. 
  • I believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I will not share my personal experiences with repentance and forgiveness, but His influence, life, teachings, and power mean so very much to me. I may not understand it all (who does, really?) but I understand how it's made me feel. How He has made me feel. And how He has helped me improve. I'm absolutely okay with this being enough, for now. 
2016, Nauvoo, Illinois
  • All of these things have eradicated shame within me. Shame about being a woman, shame about praying to a woman, shame about changing my politics, shame about being open to things not being quite what I have assumed them to be. Without shame, I have a lot more room in my heart for love. And love improves my relationships and love makes me happy! Which is why I probably seem a lot happier, these days. It's not just the weight loss, friends. It's all of this, too. 


Ahh, here is the part most people care about. "But Cheryl, how did you actually lose all that weight? I need to know because what I've been doing doesn't work for me and I'm getting desperate." Well, maybe people aren't saying that. But I was saying that for years! Years and years. I needed a quick fix. I needed to know I could have control over my body. I would research every diet, every exercise routine, every way to make my body obey my desires and not my inclination towards eating disorders and despair. 

But we all know it's not simple. Nothing about life is simple! But here's what I've learned: 

  • Postpartum Stuff: 
    • Obviously, I've had a lot of children. I was either pregnant, nursing, or trying to get pregnant for about 23 years. I feel grateful and humbled that my body was able to create, carry, birth, and breastfeed so many children (truly!) but those years have definitely taken a toll on my body. And why wouldn't they? It makes a lot of sense. I've never understood why women are upset that their bodies change after literally growing another human being inside of their body. Like... ??? (Okay, I do know and I totally blame the patriarchy and unrealistic marketing.)
      My eight (full term) pregnancies: 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018

    • For the first time in those 23 years, I am now far enough past the childbearing/nursing that I truly feel my body becoming mine, again. With that comes hormone regulation, bone alignment (hips), breast size regulation, brain-fog receding (maternal brain fog is totally a thing -- I don't believe anyone who claims otherwise!), and energy returning (I get to sleep all night!). 
    • This means I have control over my body in ways I didn't the last 2 decades. I have the time, the ability, and the energy to devote more attention to my body where as before, I was simply making sure my body could create and breastfeed babies. (As I needed to! Because it was my priority! Because I was literally growing and feeding humans!)
    • I've learned that women bear so much more than children. We bear the burden of a society that expects us to be fertile but never look like we're fertile, have babies but never look like we've had babies, breastfeed babies but eww, not in public, and raise children while having babies but don't look or act like we're raising children while having babies  --and definitely never complain about any of it, including the impossible standards, because "she chose to have babies!" SIGH 
2007, Pasadena, California
    • That is why we're all so tired, depressed, and abusing our bodies (starving them, addictions, dressing to hide them, flaunting them, paying for plastic surgeries we don't want and can't afford, etc.). I can't not talk about this in a post about my body. Because it has affected me, too. I did not escape the disgusting obsession our society has with women's bodies. Who has? Who has been able to avoid this? Because I have never met a woman who wasn't affected by it and if she's in a healthy place now, it's all due to her hard work to push society's standards away, not because she somehow escaped those negative messages.
  • PMS
    • Look, women have periods. We do. It's all hormonal and causes great changes within our systems and we go through this cycle every month. We just do! It exists. I think for me, the small act of acknowledging this fact was liberating. I no longer pretended I didn't have a cycle, I no longer made fun of the fact I have a cycle, I no longer pretended this cycle didn't affect me greatly, and I reduced the complaining about it (I tried to eradicate all negative thoughts about my period, but that's just too hard, friends!). 
    • The anger I feel every month is normal. The increase in libido during ovulation every month is normal. The range of emotions, the cramping, the mood swings --it's all normal. 
    • I decided to track it better. It started out as a reason to prevent pregnancy and then quickly turned into a way for me to anticipate my mood swings. Why was I irrationally angry? Why was I so turned on? Why are my heavy bleeding days so difficult? (I mean, besides all the blood, haha). This helped me anticipate what I would need. 
January 2017, Ekbalam, Mexico
    • This helped so much with the eating part of my life, too. I'll talk more about that in the Eating section, next. 
    • Just knowing all of the ins and outs my cycle changed so much for me. Rather than letting it control me, I move along with it, anticipating whatever may come. 
    • With that said, perimenopause has been definitely new! But I decided I had to see it the same way I see my period -- it's a part of life. It's a part of my life. I can sit and be angry about it, or I can learn about it and do what I can to get through it and minimize all the negatives. 
  • Eating: 

    • I've learned I'm an omnivore. I've been vegan, vegetarian, and a nutritarian-leaning-towards-raw-veganism (trust me, it's a thing). I've done weight watchers, precision nutrition, intermittent fasting, and absolutely nothing. I've researched paleo, beach body, jenny craig, slim fast, keto, south beach, atkins, whole 30, etc. I have experienced all kinds of foods, regimens, and disciplines, and so I have a pretty wide experience with food. 
2016, Kansas
    • I'm pretty sure I have an eating disorder, although it's never been verified. I'm an emotional eater. Remember what I said up there about feeling the feelings? For so long, I ate them. I ate all my feelings! It didn't help that I had incredible metabolism in high school and college -- I could eat all my feelings and it wouldn't show up on my external body. The habits I established were ones of desperation to numb uncomfortable emotions. But later, when it started showing up as extra pounds, I didn't know how to stop eating. I had to learn how to find a balance between fueling my body and validating my feelings. 
    • I was also raised (like many in the 1980's were) to eat everything on my plate, regardless of hunger. I also couldn't snack during the day as a child... everything was very regimented. I don't blame my parents for any of this because they were doing what they believed was best! They were also raised by parents who had lived through the Depression. That was not a fun time, when people weren't sure when they'd be able to eat, again. And so out of desperation and gratitude, you would eat what you were given! It makes sense, but in an abundant world, it creates food anxiety and eating disorders. :/ 
2022, Kansas
    • Eating based on my menstrual cycle! What does this mean? Friends, when I decided to eat my cravings that would appear during my menstrual cycle like I used to during pregnancies, it was amazing. Amazing. I'm not exaggerating! When do I get hungrier? A few days before my period. When do I fast more? Usually around ovulation. The ebb and flow of my cravings matches up directly to my menstruation cycle! So, I started to track those cravings, too. And wow --what a difference! When I allow myself permission to eat what my body is wanting (obviously with a brain behind it --eating some cookies or a hamburger is great, but eating an entire box of cookies and 3 hamburgers is not so great), my body is so much better. And regulates! And drops the weight it doesn't need! It's so very, very cool. But I'm also sad I didn't know this from the beginning. Had I been eating like this all of my life, I'm telling you --it would have been a game-changer. Probably a life-changer.
    • Vitamins and minerals: It would be super nice if I could get all of my nutrients through my food. There was a time I did! (those were the nutritarian years, my friends) But now I take my vitamins like the older person I am, and I'm glad! I feel better when I consistently take my medications and vitamins/minerals. This includes (but is not limited to): vitamin c, elderberry, vitamin d, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin b6 complex, keratin, fish oil, biotin, probiotics, etc. This is what works for me according to my yearly blood panel from my doctor. Please don't assume I'm telling you what to take. I don't know what your body needs! And I may adjust mine in the near future, anyway. 

  • Exercise:

    • I'm not young, anymore. I'm firmly middle-aged and I know how important it is to take care of my body. If I want to see my children's children's children one day, if I want to continue traveling as much as I do, if I want to keep up with the activities I love, I have to be taking care of my heart, my knees, my lungs, and my feet. I've learned that I need to do the kind of exercising that is positive for me! If I look forward to it, then... surprise! I'll do it. If I hate it, then why in the world would I do it? I've learned that with my psyche, there is no competition, race, or goal that can make me consistently do the kinds of exercise I loathe or dread doing.  
    • This is, really, because I'm not an athlete. I learned this both the easy and hard way (continuous failure at athletic things). I haven't always shied away from physical exertion, though. I did ballroom dancing and marching band as a teen and I've always loved hiking/walking. Even when I'm really bad at hiking --I still love hiking! There was a time I allowed friends to convince me to run races (the brutes!), and at age 39 I signed up for my first ballet class! But I know I feel my best when I go walking in nature. My favorite time is at dawn, either alone or with a friend, and I usually walk 2-4 miles. Instead of focusing on how I don't like to run, I focus on how much I love to walk! And then I do it. 

      January 2022, Clearwater Beach, Florida

    • I have asthma. It's controlled by taking a daily medication (singulair) and I haven't had to use a rescue inhaler in a few years. But for a long time, I was using it way too often! Finally finding the right medication was amazing and has been life-saving. I was hospitalized for pneumonia, once, directly related to my asthma... (that was no fun!). This also means I'm very aware of lung function, lung capacity, the different sounds in sick lungs, and what it truly feels like to breathe deeply. 
    • A dear friend once said that several years ago, while in her mid-50's, she met a woman in her 60's who was the epitome of vibrancy and health. My friend asked this woman what she did to be so active and healthy. She said she follows these four pillars of physicality: strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. My friend took this wisdom, shared it with others, and now I have adopted it, too! This is how:
      • Walking (already mentioned it) works with endurance. I can walk up the rolling hills around our place without missing a beat! Rarely do I run out of breath, anymore. And occasionally (very occasionally), I will find myself jogging down a trail. Wha?! I know, right? 
      • Yoga! As soon as I read what my friend had learned, I knew I had to do something. I was 80-90 pounds overweight, but I didn't let that stop me. I took to my yoga mat! Because I've done yoga and pilates throughout my life, it wasn't too difficult to fall into a routine that helped my posture, my breathing, my balance, my flexibility, and my confidence. Not to mention how easy it was to incorporate meditation and prayer into my routines! It's been wonderful. 
      • Pilates and strength training -- I add these into my yoga routines, too. I do a few free weights, but mostly I use my own body weight (like wall pushups, lunges, etc.)
    • Sex. Yes, sex. I realized that I need to have more consistent sex with my husband, and not just because of the value in the connection we feel, but because orgasms are just good for my health! It's a fact. And I have zero problems with this! :) 
July 2023, Mossy Possum Farm (Kansas)
    • Hygiene routines! Perimenopause is an interesting adventure and I've realized I need to be vigilant about my skincare, haircare, teeth, lady parts, etc. This means a lot of moisturizer, biotin shampoo, dental care, doctor care, pedicures (okay, I don't get pedicures as often as I would like), and just paying attention to my body. This has been so hard for me! Why? Because I have always been a really low maintenance kind of girl. To now have this whole "beauty regimen" kind of weirds me out. But I do it because I feel so much better when I am consistent with it! (And yes... I've started wearing makeup more consistently, too. I know, I know! The people who knew me during my "why do we wear makeup?!" phase are probably laughing.  :) But what's cool is I can do my makeup in 4 minutes!)
Extra Help:

FINALLY! Here's the main answer everyone wants to hear. "How did you lose so much weight?" They mean well, friends. The people who've asked me this know I'm not sick, they know I'm happy, and they know I'm thriving (which I'm not, but still kind of am, so I'll take it). 

Let me tell you the story: 

In December of 2020, I was pretty down. Pandemic, lack of structure, depressed, unsure about the future, still recovering from childbirth stuff (it takes years, friends, don't let them fool you into thinking it takes weeks! That's a bunch of swear words), and I weighed around 270 pounds. I was so sad. I wasn't sure how to get out of it, but... I did. I realized I needed outside help. I could not do it on my own, no matter how much wisdom I had acquired. 

I needed help. 

So, I found a psychiatrist, I started walking more, I started tracking my food, I dug down into my bag of therapy tricks, and I began the climb back out. 

July 2016, Yellowstone

Fast forward to last Fall (October 2022). I had a new job, my depression was under control, I had started those four pillars of health, I was tracking food, and... I had lost 5 pounds. Total. After almost 2 years. 

I decided I wanted to get a tummy tuck. Yes! I did! I had 8 babies worth of saggy-ness in my belly, and I figured that if I couldn't lose weight, I could at least have some more confidence with how my jeans fit. Plus, the constant yeast infections (sorry, TMI) were no fun and it was so heavy. Having that much weight in front wasn't good on my lower back. My doctor referred me to a plastic surgeon, I met with her for an hour (she was great!), and she said, quite bluntly (but not unkindly): "I can do this for you, but if you then decide to lose weight, it won't matter. Until you are at your personal goal weight and can maintain that for a while, any surgery results might not last as long as you would hope." 

I went home kind of defeated (plus it was so dang expensive, I had to re-think the entire thing, anyway). I decided I would earnestly try losing weight again --this time on purpose. On purpose! With purpose! And... it didn't work. I tracked and exercised for a few months and... nothing. 

I'm not exaggerating. Nothing was happening. 

October 2022, Kansas

(Now look --it's important for me to make something very clear. Fat does not equal ugly. Obesity does not equal ugly. For whatever reason, our society decided women are only attractive when they are thin. I don't buy it. I was beautiful fat and I'm still beautiful now. The tummy tuck had more to do with all of the secondary problems that came with having the extra skin/fat than it did with having to look a certain way. The desire to lose weight had more to do with my overall health and ability to do things I love to do without being afraid of a heart attack. Yes, yes, I did admit to falling into the same old trappings of our dumb society's obsession with thinness, but I still felt beautiful while I was obese, too. It's not all so cut and dry, you know? And do I feel more attractive now that I've lost the weight? Yes, but it has more to do with my energy and confidence, not because somehow my face looks different. My husband adored me and my body exactly the same 2 years ago as he does now. And when I see my smile, it's the same smile. When I see my eyes, they are the same eyes. Fat does not equal ugly. Fat just equals fat, sometimes. The end.) 

Again, I felt defeated. I had been working so hard without any results. I wondered if maybe I needed to get used to being tired, having weak knees, buying much bigger (and therefore expensive) clothing, and tolerating the way people treated me (another conversation about fat-shaming for another day). 

I decided to try one last thing. 

2009, Jane Austen's House, Chawton, United Kingdom

I went to my doctor (the one that had referred me to the plastic surgeon --he's been my GP since we moved to Kansas). I said to him: "Three years ago you said that if I ever needed help losing weight, that you could prescribe something for me. You have never brought it up again, which I am really grateful for, but now I'm asking you: can you help me? I'm doing everything I know how to do. What else can I do?" And he prescribed me phentermine. Low dose. Very low dose (I was on half a pill for 4 months). I'm so grateful for it. Why? Because it did what the Wellbutrin did --gave me enough of an edge ahead to be successful. 

Now I know that some people will immediately have opinions about the fact that I've just admitted to being on medication for weight loss. Some will judge me, some will applaud me, some will want to do it for themselves -- just understand, again, that this is me. This is my story. No need for criticism, no need to copy me.

Friends, the medication doesn't work if I don't do the work, too. It's both an appetite suppressant and a stimulant. This has allowed me to control my emotional eating and create just enough energy to wake up and exercise, as well as move my body more throughout the day. Side effects for me have been zero. Nothing. No negatives, just positives. 

May 2023, Interlaken, Switzerland

Over the last year I've taught myself how to eat better, I've gotten into my exercise routine, and now my knees don't hurt! (Losing 70 pounds is really good for the knees!)  I have been able to stop eating when I'm no longer hungry (even if my plate still has food on it) and I have the motivation, energy, and ability to push myself to do the things I know will benefit my heart, lungs, and joints. 

Truth: I won't be on this medication forever (same with the Wellbutrin). Once I reach a settled weight (where my body feels comfortable and healthy and doesn't need to lose any more), I will go off the medication. This will most likely be around 180 pounds. My hope is I will then continue all the new habits I've established, maintain my weight, and continue to take care of my body the way I want to, the way I've learned to, and the way that gives me the best chance to live for a very long time. 

Obesity vs Depression:

Obesity -- (I'm talking about unhealthy obesity. Some people are large/big and healthy, too. I don't buy into the myth that all obese people are miserable and dying, nor do I believe that healthy always equals thin. So when I say obesity, here, I mean people like me who are literally weighed down, cannot live the life they want, and have serious health issues directly related to all the extra weight)  --is a lot like Depression in my mind. Both of them feel overwhelming, both can have negative side effects on a person's life, and both are really difficult to overcome without internal *and* external help. 

January 2008, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, California

For example, my depression is better managed when I can exercise, get outside, and eat well. But it's the actual depression preventing me from exercising, going outside, and eating well. 

My obesity goes away when I exercise, get outside, and eat well. But the actual obesity is preventing me from exercising, going outside, and... you got it! eating well (I felt hungry all the time because my stomach was so stretched. Plus the eating disorder). 

(It's kind of like how endometriosis prevents pregnancy, but the cure is usually pregnancy (or at least remission).)

How could I exercise on my knees that hurt? How could I lose weight when I was barely able to keep my food intake in a healthy range? Just as with my depression, I knew I needed extra help with my obesity. 
It's so easy for people to say: "Just exercise harder! Eat less!" when they have never struggled with eating disorders or obesity. 

Final Thoughts:

The short (and true!) answer to "how were you able to lose so much weight this year, Cheryl?" is "lots of knowledge and hard work." 

But the truest answer is more like, "a lifetime of experiences, knowledge, several years removed from all pregnancy-related stages, monthly doctor visits with carefully controlled medication, seeing my psychiatrist every 3 months, exercise, eating the foods that make me feel joyous, and a deep desire to do the things I haven't been able to do for the last 15 years or more." 

                    August 2022, Idaho
                 275 pounds
August 2023, Kansas
195 pounds

I don't know what my future looks like. I'd be lying if I said I'm not afraid to go off of the medication. I know a lot of people who have done this and gained all the weight back. I like to think that because I'm ahead of the game (maintaining instead of losing) that I will be okay. I know what to do, I know how it feels, and I'm working hard to keep the conversation of it all flowing with my doctor, my psychiatrist, my husband, my friends, myself, and God. (And that tummy tuck? Well... I'll see how I feel in a year. It might still be something I do. Because although my "apron" has shrunk significantly, all of the extra skin from growing 8 babies and all the weight gain is definitely still there. So... who knows?) 

I love me! I love where I am, what I've learned, all the humiliating and exciting experiences that have gotten me to where I am right now. I know I have so many more things to experience and learn and honestly, I'm just so grateful for the chance to be healthier in all facets of my life! If, as humans, we are meant to have joy, I think this is truly a huge part of it. Joy of the soul. The entire self! I think I have found a large portion of it. I'm truly humbled; truly grateful. 

Poem by Cheryl Seely Savage (that's me!), included in the poetry collection, We Have Time

Saturday, April 01, 2023

We Have Time

 I published my third collection of poetry in January 2023!

It's called "We Have Time" and is exclusively a collection of love poetry. 💗

I know I ignore this blog. Social media has taken over... everything... but I wanted to at least update it a little bit! Writing, publishing, and marketing my poetry takes a lot of work. It's work I love, but it's still work! And so it's always worth mentioning, in my very humble opinion. :) 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Oh Say, What is Truth?

 There is so much political unrest, right now and my mind has been engaged constantly with thoughts about what happened at the Capitol Building last week. 

I have vacillated between hope for the future and utter despair and anger that it was allowed to happen. I question everything and I've combed all information at my disposal to find the truth about what happened. Since everyone has a tainted opinion, it's always difficult to get to the core of everything, but I think I discovered the problem: 

People were believing a lie. 

The president lied and his followers believed him, anyway. He's lied for years, and they still believe him. He gets caught lying, and they justify and excuse his behavior. His lies have harvested division, hatred, and fear --which we think culminated in what happened last week, but I have a sinking feeling there is more to come. 

It makes me wonder how we got to this place, how people who claim to follow God could believe in such obvious hypocrisy and deceit. How could they not see his lies? What happened? But more importantly: what can I do to make sure I don't fall for it in the future? 

I've been pondering about this and I've made a list of sources of truth and in the order of which I use them to find what I'm looking for... this might help you! If it doesn't, that's okay. I'm mostly writing this for myself, anyway. 

First, we seek the truth from God. We seek personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. This is the ultimate place to find the truth because "if any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God" is not some kind of nice idea --it's real! The very first place to find the truth is with God. What does He want me to do? What does He have to say about everything. There's a caveat with this type of truth, though. How can I know I'm receiving the correct revelations? Well, I ask myself these questions: 

  • Am I keeping my covenants? 
  • Am I repenting every day? 
  • Do I have the Spirit with me? 
  • Am I being obedient to the commandments? 
If I can answer yes, sincerely, to these questions, then chances are good I can trust that communication with God is open and real. Here's a great article from our prophet about how this all works. 

Second: I search for truth from Prophets and Apostles. What is the prophet saying about what's happening right now? What are they saying about elections, racism, communication, pandemics, etc? If I don't know, then I need to find out! Here are some examples of what prophets and apostles have been saying: 
  • Racism is evil
  • We accept the results of elections
  • The Pandemic is real, we're having home-centered church, we need to follow local leaders about what we need to do to help end the pandemic, etc. 
  • We need to have faith and hope and continuously rely on Jesus Christ
Third: What are the scriptures saying? When we read the scriptures, we are able to understand the plan of salvation better, understand our purpose more, and can more easily recognize truth and error. 

"If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures. They are our spiritual lifeline." ~Elder Robert D. Hales

Fourth: Experts and Scientists -- if people have spent decades learning about a subject that I don't know too much about, I think it's okay to trust their judgment. For example, I have trusted doctors to treat me and my family when we are sick. I have had amazing therapists help me, many OBGYN doctors and midwives deliver my babies, and an amazing surgeon repaired my broken nose. I've seen ENT doctors get legos out of my son's ear, diagnose scary diseases, and treat my children with medicine that helped stave off infections. 

I've also allowed experts to teach me about writing, music, art, philosophy, and literature. I've listened to experts teach me about technology, nature, the weather, and animals. I've learned from experts since I was a tiny child --in fact, you could say we all learn from experts. 

Scientists amaze me because they do their best to seek knowledge, and then apply that knowledge carefully in our society. When they discover they might be wrong about something, they adjust. Science is seeking --it's always looking for the truth. They don't get angry when they get it wrong, they use it as a chance to do better. To demand perfection from leaders, scientists, and experts right away is to be always disappointed. I feel like I'm the same way. I don't always get everything right. But I'm trying to learn and grow. And not every scientist or expert will be correct because their integrity is corrupted. This is also true! But I know for a fact that God has placed experts and scientists into my life to help me. The good ones far outweigh the bad ones. And if you're just not sure --that's when you go back to step one and seek personal inspiration and revelation to know whether or not an expert or scientist is lying to you. 

So, where can truth be found? God, Prophets, Scriptures, Experts... honestly, truth isn't too difficult to find. We just need to know how to do it, and then run away from everything else. 😉

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

I Published More Poetry!

I just published my second collection of poetry. 

It's called, Carve a Place for Me, and is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook (Kindle). Go here to see it and purchase it, if you'd like! 

My other collection of poetry, Give Me a Fragment, is also available on Amazon. It's on sale until I decide to quietly end the sale (ha!). The link for that one is right here. 

Or just go to my Amazon author page, here, and you'll see both books. 

Look! An author photo of me! :) 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Home MTC: Unexpected Blessings

My Aunt Melanie asked me to write this. She read about somebody else's experiences with having a missionary go through the MTC at home, and she thought it would be good if I wrote down the things that our family learned, too! Having Ashley home for the MTC was a really cool experience, and so I agreed to her request. It's taken me way too long to get it written, but here it is:  

This past summer --thanks to the pandemic --we were one of the many families who got to experience having a Home MTC for our missionary. It was unexpected and I was nervous about how it would play out. Our missionary is our oldest daughter, and we have a large family of 8 children! How could we keep the home reverent enough so our missionary could learn how to be an effective missionary? I was determined to make our home a special place for her, but I realized that our efforts could also fail. Did I have enough determination and faith to see this through? 

Gratefully, we did not fail and our daughter had a good experience! But I learned a lot of lessons, many of which still have me pondering. 

1. Being Set Apart Matters

When our daughter was set apart as a missionary by our Stake President, it was a very simple, yet spiritual event. We had all of our children dress in their Sunday best and gather in our living room. Our Stake President came into our home and spoke to us for a while. When he set our daughter apart as a missionary and gave her a blessing, we could feel the Spirit so strongly in our home! Her face was radiant when it was over, and there was a lot of hugging (mostly on my part). 

She started the MTC the next day, and within a few days, she told me that she couldn't believe the difference she felt --the Spirit was with her all the time, and so very strongly, too. She could sense the difference and it made her study time a lot more focused. She could feel the difference from before her setting apart and after --the Priesthood really was working! This gave her confidence and a lot of incredible moments of increased testimony as she was learning, especially when the language classes got difficult. 

2. You Can Feel the Spirit in Chaos

Our home wasn't as quiet and settled as I had hoped. I didn't suddenly stop yelling when the kids were loud and misbehaving and the toddler didn't just stop crying or screaming when he was upset. The kids still had moments of contention! Our family life had to continue and we had some of the same struggles we had before... but this time, it didn't seem to last as long. I think we were all more conscious of how our behavior could make the Spirit leave. A few times, our daughter had to leave the room because the Spirit left, and she felt uncomfortable. This was good for me because it helped me to recognize when the Spirit would be offended and need to flee. 

But what was remarkable to me was how many times she told me that the chaos of children didn't mean the Spirit left. It was only during moments of pure contention --and sometimes the chaos of a family isn't contentious! It's just loud, and boisterous; it's busy and full of all kinds of movement. This taught me a great lesson about how the Spirit can communicate with us, regardless of where we might be at the time. If we are doing our best and choosing to keep trying, the Holy Ghost will be there to guide us every step of the way. 

3. Our Daughter was Happy

The change that came over our daughter was very quiet and gradual, but we noticed how happy she became! Her personality didn't alter, and she was still the same person, but the light that came into her life and the attitude she carried with her was absolutely more positive and joyful. As she was learning the gospel and keeping the mission rules, we could see that her interactions with her siblings improved ten-fold. She was quick to forgive, chose to spend time with them, and much more eager to help around the house whenever she could. I was so impressed by her desire to serve the family! She had always been a kind and service-oriented person before, but it was another level of detail-finding that permeated our entire household. 

She was learning every day about serving and loving mankind. How could it not spill over into her life and where she was living at the time? We were the blessed recipients of seeing first-hand how complete devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the attitudes and actions of an individual. 

4. Added Time

Our oldest daughter had spent six months away from us before the Pandemic. She had gone to BYU as a Freshman, came home to visit for the Christmas holidays, and then returned to Provo to finish the semester before planning on returning just before her mission service. As we all know, these plans didn't quite work out! She ended up coming home by the end of March 2020 and finished her semester from home. She had received her mission call just 10 days before the pandemic hit, and so we knew when she was leaving --but everything changed. 

The blessing from this was that we got to have our daughter home with us for 4 months longer than we had anticipated! Our youngest child didn't really know her, as she left home when he was 8 months old. But as she spent those 4 months with our family, she was able to create a bond with her baby brother --one that has continued even after she left for her assignment. He knows her face and her voice, and so when she calls us on her P-Day, he gets very excited to talk with her! 

That is just one of the blessings we received having her with us for longer. Birthdays, camping trips, outings, and other memories were also made --blessings from a pandemic that we didn't know could produce anything but frustration and fear. Our extra time with her was a blessing for our entire family!

I'm so grateful that our daughter was able to still serve a mission during these difficult times. I'm grateful that she was able to do her Missionary Training at home! It was a beautiful experience, one that we won't ever forget. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

When I Grow Up

As a young girl, I always knew I would be a mother and a teacher. I felt it very strongly and often when people ask if I grew up to be what I wanted to be, the answer is very resolutely, "Yes!" 

What people might not know about me is that I've had other dreams that were not fulfilled. I decided at age 15 that I wanted to be a Concert Pianist. After three LONG months with a teacher who would have molded me into exactly that career, I quit. Practicing four hours a day on pieces I wasn't fond of kind of sealed the deal. 

Then I felt that maybe, perhaps I could still be a professional music teacher! I worked hard with other teachers (both piano and voice) and auditioned 3 different times at my university for their music program. I wanted to be a secondary choir teacher! I passed everything with flying colors --except the vocal audition. My advisor wanted me to try, again, but by that point, I was a Junior, I was married... I was done. I chose to minor in Music. 

I decided, around age 26, that I really needed to be a writer. I started writing children's books and discovered I was really bad at it. But I attended some writing conferences, I wrote posts for this blog religiously, and my poetry kicked up a notch. My essay writing was pretty top-notch and I wrote for several blogs. I got asked to speak publicly, sometimes, too. But it fizzled out when blogs became paid gigs that needed "professional" writers. 

At 37, I started teaching piano lessons, again, after a near 8 year hiatus. I joined the local music teachers association and really jumped in with both feet. 

When I was 38, I decided to go back and get my Masters Degree in Piano Pedagogy. I was going to start in the Fall of 2020! And then in early 2018, I unexpectedly got pregnant, again. 

When I turned 40 years old, I decided I was going to take my poetry very seriously. I self-published my first collection of poetry on my birthday! And it was a resounding success with my close family and close friends. During that first year, I made over $100 in sales! Except when I realized I had bought about $15 worth, myself. But you know, I hadn't done it for the money. I did it to try something scary and exciting. 

I was in the process of writing the second book when the Pandemic hit. It's still floundering, but I've done some work on it --and I keep writing poetry for my Instagram and Facebook pages. It's slow... I have, at most, 258 followers on Facebook and 199 followers on Instagram. I don't pay for ads and I don't spend loads of time on there, simply because I don't have loads of time. If I desperately needed the money, I'm sure it would be something that would consume my hours and I would be so famous, right now! HA! Because let's be real -- I don't know if I'm ever meant to be famous or widely read. I know I'll keep writing, though...

When I sit and think about all of these experiences, it's easy to get down on myself and consider myself a failure. But then I go back to what I explained in the first sentence. 

I'm a mom and a teacher. 

My 6-year-old self is beaming, right now. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Disjointed Update on my Mental Health

I went off my antidepressants in January. 

My psychiatrist and I had been talking about weaning myself off of them for the last 2 years. When I finally did it, I will admit it wasn't because I reduced them to half... then to a third... then to a quarter... I just stopped. 

It was financial. It was inconvenient to make another appointment. 

This is a HUGE no-no in the mental health world! You never go off of meds without a plan. You never miss appointments or don't make them. But I did. I couldn't really admit this to anyone (let alone, myself) until about a month, ago, because I knew I did something reckless. (And let me be clear: I do NOT recommend this method. I really don't. No matter how well it's worked out for me, I will never recommend stopping meds without a clear plan in front of you!)

I did well for the first two months. I couldn't really feel a difference, although PMS time certainly was more pronounced, emotionally. And then the Pandemic hit. I thought that maybe I would crash and burn mentally, but... I didn't! 

Truthfully, the Pandemic meant life halted and it was a silver lining for me! The stress of getting 10 people everywhere for everything was gone. School was on hiatus for several weeks and church assignments were canceled. Piano lessons were canceled. All sports were canceled. You know this, dear reader, because you live this, too. And because everything was canceled, my stress practically disappeared overnight... 

Oh, don't get me wrong! Pandemic stress was difficult, too. But for a few months, the stress was just not nearly as pronounced. We worried about hygiene and groceries and we were sad about isolation... but it just wasn't as stressful on my mind and body. Here's why: 

1. My kids were all home. Even our college-aged daughter! I knew where they were at all times and so I wasn't worried about where they were or who they were with or what they could have been doing... 
2. I didn't have to spend my time driving everyone everywhere and coordinate how to do this while teaching piano lessons and working with Brandon's schedule. 
3. My church responsibilities got significantly easier
4. The weather was phenomenal! It was the BEST Spring I had ever experienced in Kansas (our 5th Spring) and so we spent so much time outdoors. Gardening, walking in our local wilderness park, and Brandon and I would take daily walks around our yard. We also went camping! Being outside so much was good for my soul. 
5. There weren't any upcoming vacations to stress over (even though I love traveling). 
6. We had movie nights and game days and the kids learned to build really great blanket forts. 

In essence, life came to a grinding halt. 

But then... the weather turned hot, life started picking up, again... and this election year... and my stress levels have risen significantly. School started and our kids keep getting sick (mono and colds and now we're awaiting a covid test for our daughter). We were prepping our oldest for her mission and doing Home MTC, and the stress of making sure all of our kids were practicing safety in public (masks, etc.) started to wear me down. 

(I lost some significant relationships, this year, too. That was brutal and I'll write about it, later.)

I started to notice that it was really hard for about 10 days, every month. That's like half the month! But it was at PMS/Menstruation time. This makes so much sense! I've always struggled with my cycle emotionally. I don't get very many physical ailments or symptoms during my cycle --they have always been mental and emotional. I get so moody! Angry, frustrated, sad --and I cry a lot. But as my bleeding winds down, and the hormones are flushed out (literally!), I feel myself recovering. 

Which brings me to another subject that I will write about: How We Need to Stop Hating Periods (trust me, it'll be good!)

Realizing that menstruation time is when my Depression is at it's most vulnerable, I've been trying to track my period and be aware of what is happening. Knowledge is power! And having this knowledge allows me to take the time I need to be kind to myself during those weeks. 

I remember back in May, though. I had been having a rough time, and so I thought maybe I should get the antidepressants, again. I called my psychiatrist's office and they told me that because it had been a year since I had seen him, they had closed my account. WHAT THE!? Closed my account? I would have to start over by paying them money to have a consultation appointment, a paperwork appointment, and then the actual appointment. I can't afford that! It made me angry that a health service, which is supposed to help people prevent self-harm, couldn't keep a person's file open for longer than a year. I was only seeing my psychiatrist once a year as it was! Who was running this!? I was frustrated, but instead of making another appointment, I chose to carry on. 

Wise? Perhaps not. But I seem to be doing okay. In fact, I would say that the main reason I'm doing better than I would have is because of the years of therapy in my arsenal. Therapy is so invaluable! I've been able to use a lot of the things I've learned, and even though it doesn't always eradicate my anger or bad thoughts, it definitely helps me to derail the train and re-direct me to better things. I also try and practice some self-care to make sure I don't overwhelm myself.

Here are some things I do to keep my mental health in check:
1. Read the scriptures and pray daily 
2. Read books that make me happy
3. Breathe deeply
4. Give myself time-outs
5. Play the piano (for fun!)
6. Take long showers
7. Talk with good friends 
8. Date night with my husband (and some good sex ;) ) 
9. Go outside (walking when I can, although this has tapered off. I need to get back into the habit of regular exercise!)
10. Listening to good music

So, there you go. I'm not 100%, but I'm certainly not as depressed and anxious as I used to be! I'm moving forward. I might still go back on meds, one day (I will never rule them out), but for now, I'm good. 

What do you do to keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I'm a Republican and I'm Voting for Biden in 2020

 I'm a Republican, and I'm voting for Joe Biden. 

Some Republicans get very angry with me when I share this information, but the truth is, I'm not alone. There are a lot of us who are frustrated with POTUS and the Republicans who follow him, excuse his behavior, and defend his dishonesty. It goes beyond policy for us --it goes to the heart of democracy, morality, and decency. 

But beyond this, I've found that as I get older, I'm leaning more liberal. I've always been a moderate, politically (voting for people, rather than parties), and so I haven't been too surprised by the way my politics are changing. 

I wish we had a political party that actually embodied the things that I believe and hope for in a government. The Libertarian Party sounds like a good idea, but even they don't have all the right components and take their ideas of freedom too far, in my opinion. 

The three major reasons why people want to vote for Trump (outside of the crazy rabid fans of Trump, including (but not limited to) racists, rapists, and fascists) seem to be these: 

1. Socialism is evil 

2. Abortion: they want it illegal, no matter what

3. Freedom of Religion

I want to take the time to address each one of these --and the reason I'm doing it here, rather than on Facebook, is because discussing anything on Facebook digresses into a hailstorm of idiotic rantings (and not just from me! Ha!):

1. Socialism

Nearly every first world country in this world (and I would argue it's all of them) has a form of Socialism. There are socialist and social programs available in every government because the voice of the people want the government to help society. Taxes are collected in exchange for services. A small example would be roadwork. A large example would be education (public schools from preschool through University). We have welfare and medicare, social security, WIC, and federal parks. What most Democrats are wanting now is universal healthcare. People panic when they think about this, but after doing extensive reading on the subject (which doesn't make me an expert, just informed), it seems that if it's done correctly, socialized medicine can be a really great thing! The idea of paying a fixed rate based on my income in exchange for healthcare is amazing to me. Right now, we get to pay nearly $400 a month to have the privilege of paying a $6K deductible. This is off-set by paying into an HSA (mostly our own money), and when I remember to use it (I always feel so dumb when I forget!), it doesn't cover everything. Dealing with insurance, pre-existing conditions, whether it's been a full year or six months between visits, ER vs InstaCare vs Office visits, etc. etc, and by the end, I want to scream. What if we paid that $400 a month towards socialized medicine and then I wouldn't have the rest to worry about? That would be incredible to me! 

I know it might not be as easy as I'm making it sound, but a hybrid model of socialized medicine (or at least getting rid of insurance and making doctors/hospitals charge for what things actually cost) would be a good start. Sweden is a good example of having a very broken socialized medical program that became better once some of it was privatized, again. Our systems don't work right now --why not trying something new? Something that will hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for withholding life-saving medicine and doctors/hospitals for giving care to everyone, regardless of economic status (and race --but gosh, that's another subject for another post). 

Some people who understand economics better than me might be able to argue that socialized medicine could ruin us forever. But England, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, etc. all have socialized medicine and are doing just peachy. I don't see their economies collapsing over medicine and their people seem to be healthy. In fact, they've recovered from the Global Pandemic while we... have not. Just sayin! 

2. Abortion

I think abortion is awful. I really hate it, to be honest. But I also know that it needs to be legal, because without the legality, abortions continue in unsafe conditions. What we need is to have legal, safe, and rare abortion, and loads of educations and programs to help women. We need a society that is so enamored and grateful for human life that the idea of allowing a teenage mom, poor mom, desperate mom, or a raped mom to abort her child would be horrifying, and so we do everything we can to help her. We educate, we provide birth control, and we encourage abstinence. We make adoption services more affordable. We make maternal healthcare more affordable. We honor and respect women, we honor and respect children.

All these people screaming for Roe v Wade to be overturned are forgetting that if abortive services were illegal, then the women with ectopic pregnancies will die because the procedure to save them is abortive.  Women who have miscarriages and need D and C services will be denied them, and they will die. Most forms of birth control are abortive --how far would the law reach? What is considered an abortion? The legal ramifications wouldn't even begin to highlight the personal traumas that could ensue. Women would be terrified, men would be, too. And the truth is, it wouldn't stop abortion. It would just make it a crime, and that means putting women and doctors in jail. It would be a legal can of worms that could leak into all kinds of common-sense medical procedures. 

Abortion needs to be a last resort and it needs to be during the first trimester if at all possible. I've never met a person who truly believed all abortion should be illegal in every circumstance with zero caveats. And you know what? Most Democrats don't like abortion, either. They just don't like the results of illegal abortion, more.  

3. Freedom of Religion

Joe Biden has been a practicing Catholic his entire life. POTUS never goes to church and when he does, it's to placate and pander to the evangelical right. 

Freedom of Religion is so enmeshed into our American psyche that I can't imagine anything taking away the freedom to exercise the right to practice it. Allowing others to practice their religion, as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others, is one of those freedoms that most (almost all?) Americans would die fighting to protect. This conspiracy idea that moderate liberals want to take away all religion is about as realistic as moderate conservatives wanting to force everyone to be a Christian. Americans value religious freedom and we will keep it --I have no doubt. 

I know not everyone agrees with me on these subjects, and that's okay. I don't struggle with differing opinions about policies, and I don't struggle with differing opinions about how to go about solving societal ills (like racism, sexism, etc.). What I do struggle with is justifying immoral and narcissistic behavior. I have never believed that the ends justified the means, and so where I get frustrated the most is watching people excuse POTUS and his behavior. His crimes (which are many) are irrefutable and the proof is found everywhere (quite easily found, too!). But for whatever reason (the ends), people are willing to die on their moral hills in order to elect him, again. This is where I worry and where I have lost respect for people. Some of the greatest people I have ever known have fallen all over themselves to justify and excuse POTUS and the way he speaks, thinks, and acts --just because of his political party. I find it so bizarre and it's honestly very confusing to me. And, well, it is what it is. People are going to vote for who they want to vote for --and honestly? I'm just so grateful people are voting! GO VOTE! 

Who are you voting for? Is it based on policy, personality, or morality for you? (It's okay if you disagree with me, but please be respectful. I don't expect very many comments, since I'm still not advertising my blog on social media, but just in case you decide to comment, dear reader, please be kind. I'm not above deleting comments at this juncture. The end. )